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Plans for rail spur, business park 'a $22 million vision'

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MARLA PISCIOTTA 
For The State Journal

ROMNEY — A Thrasher Engineering rendering of a master plan for the future of Romney Business Park was unveiled during Hampshire County Development Authority's meeting last month.

The $22 million vision encompasses a train depot, a 70,000-square-foot shopping village, a scenic overlook, walking trail and a zip line, parking and recreational areas and improvements to sidewalks and roads.

Initial construction would focus on the rail spur, which is estimated to cost $4.5 million.

Included in the master plan is a train station-village, which is a shell space for outside investors. The construction cost is estimated at $9.5 million for the facility.

Other groups have expressed an interest in being part of the park as well. One Romney group is interested in building a pavilion complete with picnic table along Route 28 that would overlook the park. Another entity would like to see an amphitheater constructed.

Rick Harshbarger, chief executive officer of the Potomac Center, said the center has a natural, ready-made bowl below the center, which is perfect for concerts.

"I have always envisioned doing something there some day," said Harshbarger.

"An amphitheater would benefit the center and Hampshire County if appropriate funding could be secured. I am interested in the planning process to see where it leads."

The authority is seeking funding from the West Virginia Railroad and Intermodal Enhancement Authority.

The fund was created in 2008 by the  Legislature, which set-aside $4 million annually for the sole purpose of funding construction, reconstruction, and renovation and or relocation of rail spurs to connect them to greater forms of transportation, according to Doug York, executive director of the West Virginia Port Authority.

The rail project has York's support. It also has the support of Cindy Butler, director of the West Virginia State Rail Authority.

York said he, Butler and West Virginia Department of Transportation secretary Paul Maddox met and discussed the Romney project.

Application for funds will be under review this month.